Four-Star CB Philip Riley Is “Ride Or Die” With Notre Dame
Valrico (Fla.) Bloomingdale class of 2021 cornerback Philip Riley was clearly enthused during a phone interview with BlueandGold.com this week. He had just committed to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and couldn’t contain his excitement.
“I love Notre Dame!” Riley exclaimed. “I know that’s the place for me. I’m very excited!”
Riley announced his decision Tuesday on Twitter, but he came to his decision a few days prior. In April, some pundits believed that Riley, a 6-0, 190-pound four-star prospect, would commit to Virginia Tech, but the Irish — led by cornerbacks coach Mike Mickens, defensive coordinator Clark Lea and head coach Brian Kelly — surged in his recruitment and locked him up.
“They gave me a different perspective on everything,” Riley said of the Notre Dame coaching staff. “They really pushed hard for me. I feel like Notre Dame is a perfect fit for me socially, academically and football-wise.”
What Notre Dame offers off the field was a big selling point to surge the four-star prospect’s recruiting process.
“Of course the academics,” he said. “Not everyone can go to Notre Dame. I believe just 18 percent of people who apply there get accepted. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“Everything they said was factual. I double-checked what they said and researched a lot. With some of these other programs, there’s a lot of fluff. It was relieving to know that everything they were saying was true.”
Riley hasn’t been to Notre Dame before. It’s rare that the Fighting Irish accept a commitment from a prospect who hasn’t stepped on campus before, but the coaching staff adapted during these unprecedented times during the coronavirus pandemic.
Notre Dame did its research on Riley to make sure it would be a good fit, and Riley did his due diligence as well.
“I watched a bunch of YouTube videos at first,” Riley said. “There was a virtual tour of the campus that I took. I’m going to do another one, too. You really don’t commit to the place just because of the campus; you commit for the people, academics and football.
“I was fine committing without visiting the campus. I know I’m going to love it; it’s a historical place. It was comforting to know that I’m going to be in a stable situation with a great coaching staff and great academics.”
Riley built a very strong relationship with Mickens, who offered him just five weeks before Riley made his commitment. And at the time Mickens offered Riley, he had only been on the job at Notre Dame for three weeks.
“We’ve built a really unique relationship on a personal level,” Riley explained. “We talk every day, and he always asks me how my day is going and how my family is doing — and I ask him the same. We’ll talk about football, technique — it’s just a great relationship that I’m blessed to have.
“He’s a great guy, great coach. He’s always going to tell you the truth and keep it real with you. He definitely cares about people when he gets to know them.”
The presentation Riley received from his future defensive coordinator helped the Irish’s cause in landing him as well.
“When [Lea] gave me a presentation on how he runs his defense, the first thing he showed me was mistakes that were made or flaws that they have,” Riley recalled. “He also showed me how they were going to fix it. Some of these other programs will only speak about their accomplishments and victories that they’ve had, but they don’t go in-depth about what their mistakes were and how they were going to fix them.
“Coach Lea made sure that I know he’s fixing the flaws and getting his defense every day.”
Kelly made an impact as well and kept in close contact.
“I talked to him pretty often actually,” Riley added. “We texted every other day, and I called him a couple of times too. He’s a great guy; I love the energy that he brings. He definitely keeps it real. I love how he went in-depth about how they’ve love to have me, what he expects out of his program and how he runs his program. I just loved it. I love the passion he brings to the game.”
Riley is a lauded prospect because of his lockdown ability at cornerback, but what’s impressive about him is his versatility to play various positions.
“I could go into the slot to play nickel or play safety,” noted Riley, who says he’ll play in the boundary for the Irish. “I know I’ll definitely play corner at first, but if I need to move, I’m definitely find with that.”
Considering that Riley hasn’t been to Notre Dame before, other programs may come after him hard. After all, there’s the possibility that he could visit South Bend and not like the school.
But Riley insists that he’s solid with the Fighting Irish.
“I’m going to thank [other schools that reach out] for the opportunity and for recruiting me, but I’m 100 percent locked in with Notre Dame,” Riley said. “I’m ride or die with Notre Dame; I’m not going to change that.”
Riley moved from the state of Washington down to the Tampa, Fla., area in December 2018. His stepfather retired from the military, and Riley’s family decided to move down to the Sunshine State and be closer to family.
He committed to the Fighting Irish over the likes of Clemson, Florida State, Miami, Oregon, Penn State, Texas, USC, Virginia Tech and others.
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